USCIRF team denied Indian visa

4 Mar 2016 | Written by Prachi ; Edited by Vaneet Randhawa
USCIRF: India under the religious watchdog's scanner

Indian authorities have turned down US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) delegation's visa request.

Delegations from USCIRF, an independent US government commission that monitors religious freedom conditions in countries, have been denied Indian visas for several years.

USCIRF chairman Robert P. George stated the commission would continue to pursue the visit, holding that India's religious freedom had deteriorated since 2014.

In context: USCIRF: India under the religious watchdog's scanner

Introduction What is the USCIRF?

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent bipartisan federal government commission that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.

USCIRF's annual reports list countries where the commission finds religious freedom conditions to be unsatisfactory.

The USCIRF had recommended the US State Department to deny PM Narendra Modi a US visa, over the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Classification SystemUSCIRF's two-tier classification mechanism

The USCIRF reports classify countries in two categories based on the extent of violation of religious and minority freedom.

USCIRF recommends statutory measures against ' Tier 1 countries' or ' Countries of Particular Concern' (CPC).

Presently, CPCs include China, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

The commission recommends close monitoring for countries in the ' Tier-2' category, that include Russia, Afghanistan and India.

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India and the USCIRF

India India and the USCIRF

In its 1999 report, the USCIRF observed that the differences in religious communities led to periodic violence in India.

India was placed under the USCIRF's Tier-2 Watch List for 4 consecutive years since 2001.

India was removed from the list between 2005-2008.

In 2009, India returned to the list and continued to stay on as Indian authorities barred USCIRF delegations from entering the country.

1 May 2015India rejects vilifying USCIRF report

The USCIRF annual report attacked the Modi government, claiming that it had subjected the minorities in the country to 'violent attacks' and 'forced conversions'.

The report urged the US government and US Ambassador to India, to address the 'ongoing communal violence'.

The Indian government rejected the report, stating that it reflected a limited understanding of India, the country's society and the Indian constitution.

Report highlights US President's religious tolerance comments

The USCIRF report also refers to US President Barack Obama’s Town Hall speech in which he underscored the importance of religious tolerance and reminded the Indian government about Article 25 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees the freedom of practice and propagation of religion.

4 Mar 2016USCIRF team denied Indian visa

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5 Mar 2016No ‘locus stand’ to comment: India to USCIRF

India sternly told USCIRF which has for long has been the watchdog on religious liberty to neither judge nor comment on the country's religious freedom.

USCIRF was told that it had no "locus standi" to do so.

Disappointed by being denied the visa, USCIRF was highly critical of India on the stance of religious freedom taken by parties like BJP, VHP and RSS.

8 Mar 2016US 'disappointed' over USCIRF visa issue

Officials from the US State Department said they were disappointed over the Indian government's decision to not issue visas to a visiting USCIRF delegation.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby said, the visa denial was unfortunate but the US "supports India's commitment to promoting religious freedom and diversity."

He added that the US remained engaged in discussions with the Indian government about religious freedom.

3 May 2016USCIRF: Religious intolerance rose in India in 2015

In its 2015 report, US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) contended that religious freedom in India was on a "negative trajectory".

The report said religious tolerance had "deteriorated" and freedom violations had "increased".

The USCIRF asked the Indian government to publicly rebuke officials and religious leaders affecting the harmony.

India could feature as "country of particular concern" if religious tolerance deteriorated any further.

4 May 2016USCIRF wants Pak accountable for religious freedom violations

The US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has stated that Pakistan should be included among nations listed as worst violators of religious freedom due to frequent attacks on minorities.

The USCIRF requested the State Department to designate Pakistan a "country of particular concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act.

USCIRF said Pakistan "has failed to implement systemic changes," to protect religious minorities.